In Disciple Making, Desire is Not Enough.

When I climbed onto that tractor, I knew the competition was mine.

Tractor Pulls Aren't Easy!

The wait was finally over. My family and I had waited in line for over forty-five minutes while boy after boy attempted the county fair’s tractor pull. As a five-year old, I watched as a couple boys pedaled the tractor most of the way, others just a few feet, and a few who couldn’t move it at all. I couldn’t wait to get up there. As a daily viewer of He-Man, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I could pedal the tractor farther than any of them. 

I put my feet on the pedals and pushed with all my might. And. Nothing. Happened. I tried again and again, but that tractor didn’t move. My turn was over. I couldn’t believe it. How did I fail when I had a can-do attitude, tried with all my might, and expected success?

That day, I learned a valuable lesson: desire is not enough.

That’s as true for the tractor pull as it is for disciple making. Virtually every church wants to make disciples. When I talk with pastors in Dayton, Ohio about their BIG why, they point to the Great Commission. The church exists to make disciples. It’s clear that pastors and church leaders believe that they can make disciples, work hard to make them, and expect success, but normally the pedals don’t move. Why not?

Ancient Greek poet, Archilochus once said, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

When I got on that tractor I thought I knew and had the ability to make it go, but I didn’t. I’d never trained. My legs weren’t strong enough, so I failed. Most pastors leave seminary and believe they know how to make a disciple, but they quickly realize that they don’t. In fact, 80% say their church doesn't have an effective disciple making strategy. And pastors give their church higher marks in this area than congregants. It’s not surprising; many say they’ve never been trained to make a disciple. Most haven’t had any first-hand experience being discipled or even had the chance to take a class on the subject.

Jesus spent three years training the disciples how to make disciples. He didn’t sign them up for a program or introduce them to a great curriculum. He called them to be with him. He invited them to a relationship. In the context of that relationship, He told them why, showed them how, got them started, kept them going, and helped them pass it on. They followed because of who He was, not because of what He knew.

Whether it’s a tractor pull, disciple making, or computer programming, desire is not enough. No matter how much you want it, try to do it, or expect to succeed, you will fall to the level of your training. So the key question is, are you willing to be trained in what you desire to become?